Refuting the “cancelling sequestration would leave defense off the hook” lie

Sequestration is scheduled to occur months from now, on January 2nd, 2013. As this date nears, conservatives are fighting to spare defense from this disaster (which would cut the defense budget by $1 trillion), and liberals, along with libertarians, are spreading blatant lies to mislead the public and cause it to oppose a solution to this problem.

An example of these lies is a crappy, ridiculous blogpost published on March 29th by National Review’s The Corner, written by extreme liberal Veronique de Rugy, who criticizes RSC Chairman Jim Jordan and Member Scott Garrett for sparing defense from the disaster of sequestration:

“Washington’s rhetoric of calling for a reduction in the growth of spending “a dramatic cut” doesn’t change the fact that even under sequestration, defense spending would grow by 10 percent over ten years as opposed to 18 percent.”

That is a blatant lie, not a fact. Under sequestration, defense spending would not be cut at all; it would actually be cut deeply, to $469 bn in FY2013 (next January); the CAP’s Larry Korb says it would be cut to $472 bn in FY2013. Meanwhile, the OCO budget (which is not exempt from sequestration either) would decline to $88.5 bn and shrink further in later FYs. See this graph from the CBO:

All figures in this graph are in real-term dollars. The CBO says that if sequestration goes through, defense would be cut, year-to-year, by $47 bn in FY2013 alone; that is, in real terms, the base defense budget would be $47 bn LOWER in FY2013 than in FY2012. This is a big spending cut. Furthermore, as this graph also proves, the post-FY2013 growth of defense spending would not even be close to 10%. It would be so slow that defense would not reach its FY2011 level of funding until FY2019 at the earliest.

Figures from the Ryan Plan show that the cuts would be even deeper than that, amounting to at least $55 bn in every FY from FY2013 to FY2022.

Furthermore, this would not just be a defense spending cut. It would entail real, and disastrous, consequences, detailed here. (That blogpost lists 6 solid reasons why defense should be spared from sequestration. To recap, if sequestration occurs, the DOD would have to eliminate the entire ICBM leg of the nuclear triad (thus inviting a nuclear first strike), cut the already-inadequate bomber fleet by 2/3s, the SSBN and fighter fleet both by more than 1/3, cancel many vital, necessary modernization programs (such as the new Long Range Bomber and the SSBN replacement program), cut the Navy down to fewer than 230 ships, and lay off 100,ooo-200,000 troops, including 37,000 Marines (cutting the USMC down to just 145,000 men, which, according to its Assistant Commandant, would leave it unable to handle even one major contingency). Yet, the world is not becoming any safer these days; it’s actually becoming more dangerous, as America’s enemies arm themselves to the teeth. But of course, de Rugy doesn’t care about that, only about cutting defense as deeply as possible and disarming America unilaterally.

So these cuts would be real, draconian, and would gut the military.

De Rugy also falsely claims that “I think it is still a mistake to leave defense off the hook”, and that “A serious budget should put everything on the table. Jordan and Garrett seemed to agree with the idea in the past and in recent conversations.”

But defense has NEVER been off the hook, and it has been on the table the whole time – and the RSC’s budget plan would not take it off the table. In FY2010 and FY2011, the Obama Administration killed ca. 50 crucial weapon programs (including the F-22, the ABL, the MKV, the KEI, the Zumwalt class, the FCS, the CSARX, the AC-X, and the CGX cruiser class). In 2010, the US ratified the New START treaty, which obligates only the US (not Russia) t0 deeply cut its nuclear arsenal and the arsenal of delivery systems (ICBMs, SLBMs, bombers). In 2011, the House passed a CR that cut defense spending in real terms and prohibited new program starts for the remainder of FY2011. And the first tier Budget Control Act of 2011 mandates $487 bn in defense cuts as a first step – cuts that will not only eliminate any waste in the defense budget but will cut beyond fat and into the muscle. As a consequence of these cuts, the DOD will have to cut military capabilities as well, and reduce the size of the force as well as forego several necessary modernization programs (such as the JSTARS replacement).

All told, these defense cuts have, since 2009, added up to $920 bn. Furthermore, the DOD is, so far, the ONLY government agency or program to contribute anything meaningful to deficit reduction. No other government agency or program has so far contributed anything serious.

This completely belies de Rugy’s false claim that defense would be taken “off the table” and be left off the hook” if it is spared from sequestration (which would be another round of deep, $600 bn across-the-board cuts).

Moreover, “a serious budget”, or at least a serious and fiscally responsible CONSERVATIVE budget, would not cut everything deeply or everything equally without looking at what you’re cutting. Only irresponsible, reckless politicians and activists would do that. A “serious budget”, a fiscally responsible one, would set priorities for the federal government, fully fund those priorities as needed (e.g. national defense), and cut back on all on-priorities while providing for a simple tax code that everyone can understand and few would have the opportunity to cheat on.

And a CONSERVATIVE budget would set national priorities in line with the Constitution, which delegates few powers to the federal government, but does OBLIGATE it to provide FULLY for the common defense. It’s not a mere discretionary power, it is a DUTY.

But of course, De Rugy, being a liberal, doesn’t care about the Constitution (or providing for the common defense) and therefore advocates equal cuts to everything, including defense.

De Rugy also falsely claims that Jim Jordan and Scott Garrett are somehow not committed to putting everything on the table:

“However, I am not sure that is consistent with the fact that their budget will continue to grow defense spending over the next ten years after years of rapid growth.”

But as proven above, defense has always been on the table, has never been off the hook, and the RSC budget would not take it off the hook. Moreover, the claim that defense has experienced “rapid growth” over the last 10 years is also a blatant lie. The FY2001 defense budget was $291 bn in 2000’s money, i.e. $390 bn in CY2011 dollars. Ten years later, it was $530 bn under the FY2011 Continuing Resolution. This FY, it’s $531 bn. That is growth of just $141 bn (i.e. just 36%) over 11 years; that’s a very modest rate of growth. Including GWOT (OCO) spending, it has grown to $645 bn in FY2012, an increase of  $245 bn (i.e. 65%), but that’s still growth that occurred over 11 years. Furthermore, the extremely low, inadequate defense spending levels of the 1990s are no model for America and nothing to emulate. The defense cuts of the 1990s gutted the military so badly that in 2000, Clinton’s own Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the SASC that the cuts had “mortgaged the future of the military.”

There are lies; there are big lies; and then there are lies that are so blatant and so outrageous that it’s hard for any rational person to believe that such lies have even been attempted. De Rugy’s false claims belong to the latter category.

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